Championship leaves no permanent damage

By Acton Gorton

Despite an estimated 10,000 disappointed Illini fans converging on Green Street, the Alma Mater and the University Quad Monday night, there are no permanent signs of the University men’s basketball team’s loss to North Carolina Monday night.

The pavement on Green Street is intact – proving just how solid the avenues wrapping around the University are when the upset fans after the game made for a long walk back from the bars to their homes.

The Alma Mater is still in one piece – even after students climbed on the arms and the head of the copper statue just to do a swan dive into the crowd below. The Quad still has grass growing on it, testifying to the tolerance developed over the years for handling large mobs of students.

Jeff Unger, a spokesman with the University, said the University was happy that most of the crowd behaved. However, he said there were more people in the street and more calls for trash bin fires than after Saturday’s game against Louisville.

“People who do these things are thoughtless,” Unger said. “The vast majority of people who took place (in the gathering) after (Monday’s) game were respectful and in good spirits. It was a very small portion of the group that participated in the fires.”

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Lt. Skip Frost of the University Police said most people were behaving responsibly. He said the police didn’t mind people climbing up on the Alma Mater, but when they started to jump off and a woman got hurt, they had to move in and prevent anyone else from getting injured.

Frost said the University police were not expecting a riot, but they have a general contingency plan in case riots do happen.

“We wanted everybody to have a good time,” Frost said. “The only time we moved in was if there was danger of physical violence or property (damage). It was unfortunate we had a limited number of arrests, (but we are) pleased with how things turned out.”

Frost said the Illinois State Police, Champaign Police, Urbana Police, University Police and the county Sheriff’s department all coordinated to ensure there was adequate enforcement not just for the crowd, but also for the surrounding Champaign/Urbana area.

Both Unger and Frost said they were not aware of any significant damage or serious injuries that resulted from the gatherings Monday night. Unger said in the 14 years he’s been at the University he had never seen a crowd that large, but Frost said he saw a similar crowd during Halloween of 1989.

According to the University Police Web site crime report, there was a report of an attack in a dorm hall, an attempted torching of a table in front of the Foreign Language Building and attempted arson when someone placed a rag in the gas tank of a pickup truck.

According to the Daily Tar Heel, the campus newspaper at the University of North Carolina, there were more than 45,000 “exuberant” fans packing the streets in their downtown after the game.

In some instances, it was reported that UNC students launched large fireworks that shot from a cannon over the heads of the nearby crowd and skimming the roofs of nearby buildings. Similarly to the Illini crowd Monday night, Tar Heel fans lit random fires, jumped off their Alma Mater, climbed trees and pounded drums.

“It was more like a force of nature – a swelling surge of sky blue,” said Ted Strong, assistant city editor of the Daily Tar Heel.